Date: 25th April 2003
Game played: Settlers of the Stone Age, The ( Mayfair Games ) BGG Id: 4394

This week, we got the chance to try the latest Settlers variant and I was glad to say I was pleasently surprised. I thought that with the number of different versions already available, a further one might seem a bit stale. However, although it is typical Settlers at its core, the new elements make for an interesting 90 minute game of exploration and migration.

The game starts with players establishing three settlements in Africa to make use of the resource hexes available there. The usual die roll at the beginning of a turn determines which hexes produce resources, the active player then trades as normal if he wants, and then he can spend resources. Instead of road building, players send explorers out into Europe and Asia and later on to the Americas and Australia. Players can only build new settlements at the points where their explorers meet local tribes and, as you are limited to just five settlements, you soon have to abandon some of your early settlemets to establish the new ones. This is where the migration comes in because as the game progresses, the hexes in Africa get turned into desert and deserts don’t produce resources so you need to move on to keep your production up. In addition to exploring and settling, you also need to make advances in the civilisation of your tribe. This progress brings advances to your abilities and allows you greater potential to explore outlying reaches and cross the oceans to the Americas and Australia. The outlying reaches reward the explorer with exploration markers, some of which gain you VPs. As well as gaining VPs for each settlement you establish after your initial three, there are bonus VPs for being first to settle on all four continents, having the most exploration markers and being first to advance to the fifth level in four areas of progress. The first person to get to 10VPs wins.

As with most Settlers games, the die rolls can sometimes make or break you. Five was the hot number in our game and Mark K suffered greatly as that was the one number where he wasn’t represented. He got starved of resources on so often that his game was over very quickly. At the start, I struck out to an early lead, managing to grab the 2Vps for most exploration markers, but in the middle of the game, I couldn’t get hold of any Bone resources for love nor money. Meanwhile, Nige struck out for the Americas and Mark G pioneered his way to Australia where he found an abundance of exploration chips and managed to wrest the 2VPs away from me. Nige eventually managed to get to the 10th VP, although it looked odds on that he was going to win, quite a bit before the end.

As I said at the beginning, there was enough different about this version of Settlers to make it a worthwhile game on its own merits. I’m keen to play again and we all enjoyed this experience. Even Mark K thought the game played well even though he suffered all the way through.

Mark G
Mark K

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